Virgin Media Using Deep Packet Inspection To Spy On Your Internet Usage For Hollywood

from the how-nice dept

Last year, there were early reports that ISP Virgin Media in the UK would become a copyright cop for the entertainment industry and start kicking file sharers offline if they were accused of infringement. While Virgin later denied this, the company did send letters threatening to kick users offline anyway. And, now, reports are coming out that Virgin Media is starting to use controversial deep packet inspection technology to spy on users to see if they’re sharing any copyrighted works. As the article notes: “It’s the equivalent of the Royal Mail opening every parcel to see if there’s a CD inside, and making a note if there isn’t a receipt in there too.”

While this is just a test, and the information is being aggregated in a supposedly anonymous way just to judge the extent of the problem, there are a bunch of issues with such claims. First, there is no such thing as an anonomyzed dataset. Second, there are some pretty serious privacy questions raised by this. In the US, the use of Deep Packet Inspection for looking at what users do has been frowned upon, but in the UK it’s been deemed not so bad by the legal system (however, the wider EU doesn’t agree with the UK on this position). No matter how you look at it, it does seem quite extreme for your ISP to carefully look at everything you do online. In the end, of course, this will only serve to drive up the demand for encryption technology.

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Companies: virgin media

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Comments on “Virgin Media Using Deep Packet Inspection To Spy On Your Internet Usage For Hollywood”

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cc says:

I remember reading about Detica CView, the software they are using for this.

It really is just to measure the amount of “piracy” that takes place, as it apparently offers no way to pin anything on any particular user.

Detica said that they have no plans to ever change the software to spy on individual users.

What will the data tell the ISP though? If 50% of their traffic comes from piracy then 50% of their money comes from piracy. Would they just agree to cut it off?? I don’t see how ISPs can benefit from all this, or that it even makes business sense to keep offering internet services in the long run.

Basically.. dear Mandy stay away from my family.

PaulT (profile) says:

Beyond the privacy issues, my main objection to this kind of thing is how they tell whether or not the content is infringing, and what they do with that information. Both are extremely flawed and ripe for abuse and false positives.

Let’s say I’m downloading a movie file named “House On Haunted Hill.avi”. Is this a copy of a feature film, a mislabelled file or a home video that happen to have the same title. If it’s the former, is it the public domain 1950s original, or the remake that’s still under copyright? How can they accurately tell?

I have serious doubts that the correct information will be gathered every time. Combined with the proposed 3 strikes laws and the fact that this would open the floodgates for ISPs being liable for every piece of traffic (along with the pressure for them to censor said traffic), this is a dangerous path indeed, that will leave many people wrongfully penalised.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you look at Sweden after the new copyright laws were put in place, you will see an increase in the use of VPN’s Proxie servers and encryption. Basically what Virgin is doing will cause this to occur before the laws in the UK are changed. The use of FreeNet and I2P will increase, Linux use will increase, apps like Xine and Mplayer will be used to view DVD,s.

I really see this as a good thing, it means more people concerned about privacy, more use of encryption, and less ability to track people doing file sharing.

In the end it will make the internet and communications more robust, more private, and less likely to be abused by government and private companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it’s a non-issue.

You sort of have to get over the concept that your internet data is some how private. It passes through many different hands on the way to you, and any one of those stops could duplicate or inspect your data without notice. Using the internet is a bit like shouting across a crowded room, don’t be surprised when more than a few people know what you are talking about.

Andy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I came to read the comments just to see how many of my deluded and naively trusting countrymen would chime up with just this moronic classic.

This is the same distorted thinking I have been hearing for years and which has led to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras, the police holding the DNA of innocent people, demands for ever more intrusive surveillance under the false pretense of being in the pursuit of terrorists and criminals.

I despair at the utter complacency displayed in Britain today by those who would allow government and law enforcement to do precisely whatever it pleases in the foolish belief that these organizations only have citizens’ best interests at heart. This is the country that tolerates the holding of public office by such characters as Peter Mandelson.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

wow. you are
A) a shill
B) an idiot
C) someone with absolutely no idea of what the concept of privacy is
D) all of the above.

ima go with D

me posting my thoughts here calling you moronic short sighted and just plain uninformed would be like shouting across a crowded room. i know people are able to see what i post well ahead of time just like if i shout in a room i would be dumb to think that no one would hear me.

no, this is more akin to having a private conversation in my apartment about stuff that is none of your business and you are sitting there with surveillance mics snooping on everything i say until you find something you know my landlord doesnt like then reporting that information to him so he will kick me out.

i am not the one that needs to get used to anything… you are the one that needs to get used to the fact that my data is MINE… not anyone elses and yes… its just as private as my mail unless i choose to make it not private

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it’s a non-issue.

Reminds me of something….

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Pastor Martin Niemöller

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it’s a non-issue.

Heh, posting anonymously against privacy. How hypocritical can one get?

If someone in the “nothing to hide” crowd wants to be staken seriously, I think they should post with their real name and home address. Then they should unlock their home and leave a sign in the front window inviting everyone to come on in and take a look around at any time. After all, they have nothing to hide, right?

But they’re not going to do that. You know why? Because it’s other people’s privacy that they think has no value, not their own.

The eejit (profile) says:

Oh look!

We have someone using privacy to defend against the LOSS of privacy. What would you say if you became the victim of DPI-based infringment suits? I’d bet most of my money that you’d be pretty pissed off.

Maybe we’re catching up to you Yanks on crazy laws over here in Blighty. Also, our Business Secretary needs some sense beaten into/money beaten out of him until he understands that this will make him MORE likely to be caught out when doing unethical things.

Or maybe he’s just Mickey Mouse in disguise. 🙂

bugmenot (profile) says:
Record Labels Face $6 Billion Damages for Pirating ArtistsWhile the major record labels were dragging file-sharers and BitTorrent sites to court for copyright infringement, they were themselves being sued by a conglomerate of artists for exactly the same offenses. Warner, Sony BMG, EMI and Universal face up to $6 billion in damages for pirating a massive 300,000 tracks.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Nicholas Bohm | December 8th, 2009 at 15:31 UTC
Does using CView involve interception under RIPA?

Yes. The question of whether a human needs to see something before it counts as interception is answered in my paper on Phorm at in paragraphs 14 to 17. No human access is necessary – machine examination of content is still interception, and unlawful unless justified.

It remains to be seen whether a convincing case can be made for an ISP’s need to know how much of its traffic infringes copyright – is this really required for purposes connected with the provision or operation of its service?

Daniel McDicken says:


Detica’s Claim

The Detica CView™ tool meets stringent consumer security design principles to protect privacy and is powered by a fully automated, closed system which does not identify individuals or store their data.

Which stringent security design would that be?

Where can we the consumer download and examine the source code?

If this technology does not identify individuals or store their Data, then how does it identify potential file sharing? I am given to understand that this may be any encrypted SOCKS stream. So people like myself using Tor for the enhancement of their on-line privacy are getting screwed and labeled as illegal file sharers then by an automated system that they freely admit they have no control over.

Ian says:

police using DPI

It is now 2016 aand I want to know the legal position on a police force using DPI.

Also what if the pilce force was also an ISP that had 65,000 plus IP numbers under its control. Would this allow the Police to access DPI info as ISP and then use it in the course of Police work

I know this may sound ‘odd’, it is something I am working on right now.


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